As we car enthusiasts collectively roll our eyes at the changes besetting Cadillac, we’re reminded of GM’s other grand gestures, which for all their promise simply ended up steadying the company’s trajectory toward eventual bankruptcy.
This 1991 Fleetwood on Craigslist brought to mind a similar time in Cadillac’s history.
Cadillac will be changing all names (except Escalade) to CT-followed-by-a-number even as it hauls off its sales and marketing to fashion-capital New York, in the hopes of some stylistic rub-off. Just as it is can be more entertaining to read the comments than the feature story, the reaction to Cadillac’s latest reach has been darkly comic.
One coffee-spitting chortle came from Automotive News top dog Keith Crain, when he declared that the move from Detroit “can only mean that someone” – an indirect reference to Johan de Nysschen, Cadillac’s new global chief – “wants to live in New York.”
Random decisions and the piling on of variables will add distraction to any project, and most of us wish that Cadillac would just get to the business of making great cars, cars that are clearly without compromise and without the bloated and ballyhooed reinvention.
There was a similar feeling about the brand back in the late-’80s to early-’90s. With the handsome-but-still-kinda-cheapo 1992 Seville yet to add a rakish new look to the lineup, Cadillac was rolling with cars that were riddled with compromise. It seems absurd now, but except for the Allante, Cadillac’s cars had an embarrassingly clear lineage to cheaper versions from other GM divisions. Was a car boxy? Well then it was probably a GM, and – squint – it was an Olds, wait, no, it was a Cadillac.
The commonality forced upon Cadillac by dear old Roger Smith in the ’80s had ravaged the division’s brand equity, and it was left wide open to attacks by competitors.
Something needed to be done with Cadillac’s top sedans, and in typical GM fashion, it was done halfway. In a market that was rewarding European cars for their muted styling and capable performance, Cadillac looked back to the 1970s by adding fins, fender skirts and thickly padded vinyl roofs. Fortunately by 1991, the Fleetwood’s V8 engine was enlarged to 4.9 liters and produced a respectable 200 horsepower.
Check out that casket interior. Completely off-beat from the trends of its time, but it is pretty darned delicious today.
Back then, Cadillac resorted to what was familiar to move more metal, and as a result, it addressed a shrinking audience. Today’s answer to the division’s slow sales is a core shake-up, as its brave new leader moves it away from the Motor City and snuffs out the storied identities like Fleetwood in favor of generic nomenclatures.
The future will show whether this effort will gain traction. If it’s another misfire, let’s hope at least that it will yield something that is appreciated after the dust settles, like this campy classic Fleetwood.
Here’s the text from the SF Bay Area Craigslist ad:
This is a 1991 Cadillac Fleetwood in excellent condition. It is very clean inside and out. It was driven only 6,000 miles a year. Engine runs strong and transmission shifts very smooth with no leaks. The engine runs very clean, just passed smog with very low numbers. The tires are in new condition! The soft top is in perfect condition and the interior is in very good condition.
All state-of-the-art for its year:
1) Chip Key anti-theft ignition
2) Driver side air bag
3) Gas gauge tells miles per gallon as you are driving and gallons of gas in the tank
4) Climate control tells temperature inside and outside the vehicle
1) All Power (windows, sun roof, trunk, and fuel cap release)
2) All Leather seats and dashboard/door panels
3) Original Cadillac rims! No hub caps which were very common with theses models.
4) Professionally tinted back windows. Very Nice!